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The IHRU leverages the FBI’s investigative expertise, techniques, and legal authorities to identify, locate, investigate, and prosecute perpetrators of serious human rights or humanitarian law violations, including genocide, torture, war crimes, female genital mutilation, and the recruitment or use of child soldiers. The IHRU leverages the law enforcement and intelligence efforts of all 56 FBI field offices and our legal attachés in order to investigate and hold perpetrators of mass atrocities and serious HRV accountable to the rule of law in a U.S. or foreign country’s judicial system.

The IHRU conducts this mission in close collaboration with the Department of Justice (DOJ) Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP), ICE/HRVWCC, the Department of State (DOS), and the U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC).

The IHRU grew out of the Genocide War Crimes Program, which was created in 2009 by the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. In November 2014, the unit was realigned under the Bureau’s Criminal Investigative Division and renamed the International Human Rights Unit.

The IHRU routinely coordinates with foreign counterparts on human rights investigations, and participates in numerous interagency and NGO meetings and trainings. The FBI has also partnered with the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC), which facilitates a whole-of-government approach to combating human rights violations. The FBI aggressively pursues human rights law enforcement through its role at the HRVWCC, traditional investigative methods in the field, intelligence-driven initiatives, and coordinated efforts with both civil society and domestic and foreign law enforcement partners.

Within the U.S., our primary partners are the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center, the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice, and the Department of Justice’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section.

The Bureau—through the Department of Justice—also supports the multi-agency Atrocities Prevention Board recently created by Presidential Study Directive 10 to strengthen the U.S. government’s ability to foresee, prevent, and respond to genocide and mass atrocities. 

The FBI also works with our international partners and their court systems to locate and hold human rights violators accountable to the rule of law. We cooperate with INTERPOL, and we assist international courts and tribunals when there is a U.S. nexus or in accordance with U.S. laws, policies, and treaties. Examples of these international bodies include the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.